Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Receiving Communion: Irreverence or Ignorance?

Ever go to the Dept. of Motor Vehicles? You see people waiting in line, bored, listless, hands in their pockets. They slowly make their way forward. When they finally get what they came for, they make a beeline for the parking lot. “There,” they think to themselves, “that obligation of getting the car registered is done. Won’t have to come back here again hopefully for another year or two.”

A lot of people have the same attitude and appearance when they receive communion at Mass (including the part about not coming back for another year or two). They wait in line, bored, listless, hands in their pockets. They slowly make their way forward. When they finally get what they came for, they make a beeline for the parking lot.

Most of us in the pews can’t quite see what happens at Communion. But in talking to a few priests and deacons, apparently the manner in which many people receive the Eucharist is downright dreadful. It seems our parishes have an epidemic of irreverence.

Some people hold out their hand to receive the host with all the enthusiasm of a guy waiting at a bus stop checking to see if it just started to rain.

Some people snatch the host from the priest or deacon’s hand like they were taking a number at the deli counter. You almost expect them to stand off to the side waiting for their number to be called and then order a pound of liverwurst.

Some people commit gross violations, such as waiting until they return to the pew before consuming the host, or even worse, breaking it in pieces and sharing it with young children who have not had their First Communion yet.

But it’s really not so much a problem of irreverence. It’s a problem of ignorance. Receiving Communion has become a rote ritual for many Catholics, similar to a trip to the DMV, because we’ve forgotten what is present in the Eucharist—or rather, WHO is present.

Most of us haven’t heard a detailed explanation of the Church’s doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist since CCD class in the 4th grade. And I don’t know about you, but when I was in the 4th grade, I had the attention span of a cocker spaniel puppy. (Actually, that’s an insult to cocker spaniel puppies—my attention span was much worse.)

Anyway, let’s just say it’s been a long time since the average Catholic was taught the bread and wine are truly transformed into the body and blood, soul and divinity, of Jesus. It’s not symbolic; it’s not merely a remembrance ceremony. It is truly Jesus in the flesh.

How can this happen, you ask? Well, it’s a divine, supernatural miracle. If we’re Catholic, we already believe in miracles: the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, the Red Sox winning the World Series, etc. We believe miraculous things are possible when God causes them to happen. Just look in the mirror. Your very existence is a supernatural miracle. Of course, some folks look rather super, while the rest of us look a little too natural.

We believe the bread and wine truly become the body and blood of Jesus. Now, we don’t believe this because it sounds nice, or because some Church leader tells us it’s true. We believe it because Jesus Himself clearly taught that it’s true. It really makes all the difference in the world. 

So, at Mass, let’s try to be more reverent when we receive Communion. Let’s remember exactly WHO is being placed in our hands. And you don’t even have to bring your vehicle registration form with you.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Celebrate Until It Hurts

If you read last week’s column, you know the topic was the proliferation of “look at me!” show-off athletes in sporting events nowadays. Those of us in the fuddy-duddy generation prefer the old-school approach, epitomized by the player who simply hands the ball to the referee after scoring a touchdown, as if he does that every day.

If you didn’t read last week’s column, WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?!

Oh, sorry. As you probably noticed, those of us in the fuddy-duddy generation tend to get cranky easily. At our age, our boxer shorts must be getting a little too tight.

Anyway, there is another aspect of modern sporting events that has gotten out of hand. Along with all the strutting and chest thumping and “look at me” behavior whenever a player does something significant on the field, today’s ballplayers engage in ridiculous celebrations whenever they win a game. And I don’t mean the 7th game of the World Series. They celebrate all the time now, even when they win a weekday afternoon game in Cincinnati, a victory which propels their team into a tie for 3rd place, only 21-1/2 games behind the division leader. (If you don’t grasp my sarcasm here, I’m trying to say the game has all the importance of a company picnic softball game, that is, none.)

When a player gets the game-winning hit, the entire team pours out of the dugout and greets him at home plate. The moment he touches the plate, he is mobbed by two dozen young, healthy athletes, who pound his back, slap the top of his head, splash buckets of water and Gatorade on him, and try to rip his jersey off his back. A recent addition to this ritual is having the entire contents of a baby powder bottle poofed into his face. That must be great for the eyes and lungs.

The level of exuberance demonstrated during these victory celebrations far exceeds the importance of the game. I mean, we’re talking baseball here. They play 162 games each season. Even the worst teams win at least 50 games. You mean to tell me every single victory requires a display of jumping and screaming similar to a squadron of Marines in 1945 who just found out Imperial Japan surrendered? (Note the fuddy-duddy historical reference.)

Not only are these baseball celebrations ridiculous, they’re also dangerous. A few weeks ago, New York Yankee slugger Aaron Judge had half of a front tooth broken off during one of these frenetic celebrations when a teammate’s batting helmet smashed into his face.

A few years ago, major leaguer Kendrys Morales hit a walk-off grand slam home run for the Angels, and during the jumping and pounding that greeted him at home plate, he broke his leg. The injury put him on the disabled list for an entire year. 

Frequently, we hear that a player is scratched from the lineup because of “neck stiffness” or “shoulder tightness.” Hmm, I wonder how many of these injuries were really caused during a dopey celebration rather than during game action?

Back in the good ol’ days, when a player made a game-winning hit, his teammates would greet him — in the dugout, not at home plate — and show their appreciation by offering him a hearty handshake, a slap on the back, and a cigarette. (OK, not everything about the good ol’ days was good.)

As a fuddy-duddy who also is a realist, I accept that the self-absorbed, “look at me” generation is here to stay. But if they could avoid injuring each other while celebrating, that would be nice. And don’t waste all that baby powder. Those of us with tight boxer shorts could use it.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Who Is Jesus, and What Did He Do?

A friend of mine has a four-year-old grandson, and recently the little boy attended a baptism at my parish. In our church, there is a huge crucifix above the tabernacle, in the middle of the sanctuary. It’s a gorgeous sculpture, and the lifelike image of Jesus must be at least eight feet tall.

When the four-year-old boy walked into the church, he looked up at the crucifix and stopped in his tracks. Then he blurted out, “Who is he?! And what did he do?!”

Out of the mouth of babes.

This little boy was stunned by the larger-than-life figure of a mostly naked man painfully nailed to a cross. The two questions that immediately popped into his head concerned the man’s identity, and what he did to deserve such a fate.

That’s the theme of this week’s gospel reading, when Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”

And you know what? Those questions asked by that little boy are the TWO most important questions in the whole world: Who is Jesus? And what did He do?

When you boil it down, those two questions are the entire basis for our Christian faith. First, the identity of Jesus: He is the second person of the Holy Trinity, the Son of God, the Eternal Word through Whom the entire universe was created, and the Savior of all mankind. In this week’s gospel reading, Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Second, what Jesus did: He humbled Himself by taking on human flesh; He offered up His life on the cross to pay the price for our sins; He rose from the dead, conquering death once and for all; and He promised that if we put our faith in Him, we too can live forever.

You’d be surprised how much conflict there is about these two basic questions: Who is Jesus, and what did He do?

Many people are convinced that Jesus was merely a good and wise human teacher, but not divine. The thinking is that Jesus taught a lot of great things about loving other people and taking care of the poor, but He himself was just a man.

However, if you look at some of the claims Jesus made about Himself, you cannot possible conclude that He was a good and wise human teacher. Jesus said that all authority in Heaven has been given to Him. He said that He existed before Abraham and saw Satan cast out of Heaven. He said that He was more important than the holy Temple in Jerusalem. He said that His death would somehow reconcile mankind back to God.

A mere man who makes such claims cannot be considered good; he would be a deceiver who told blatant lies to manipulate others. And he cannot be considered wise; he would be a fool—and possibly insane—if he actually thought those claims were true.

What Jesus did also is debated nowadays. Many people, even those who call themselves devout Christians, no long believe the Bible is a divinely-inspired and trustworthy text. They think the Bible is interesting and curious ancient literature, but it was composed by ignorant, pre-scientific men who didn’t know much about the real world. And so, the conclusion is: there is no reason to trust what the Bible teaches, including what it says about Jesus’ earthly ministry.

How sad. These folks incorrectly answer the two most important questions in the whole world. But a four-year-old boy, not even in Kindergarten yet, sees an image of Jesus on the cross and is awestruck. He blurts out the two most important questions in the world: Who is He? And what did He do?

How many of us in the pews are so familiar with the sacred images in church that we don’t even notice the crucifix anymore? How long has it been since we saw an image of Jesus suffering on the cross, and had our hearts stirred with awe and wonder?

Now would be a great time for all of us to ponder the two most important questions in the world: Who is Jesus? And what did He do? 

That four-year-old child could not have said it any better. Out of the mouths of babes.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Fuddy-Duddies vs. Look-at-Me Generation

Of all the wise lessons about life I learned from my father, the most important thing he ever taught me is this: “When you score a touchdown, just hand the ball to the ref, as if you do it every day.”

This was not simply advice to avoid being one of those embarrassing end zone celebration buffoons. Have you seen those guys? They score a touchdown — often in a meaningless pre-season game in August, which means their team now trails by only 21 points — and then they start jumping and strutting and pounding their chests as if they just won the Super Bowl. I’ve seen receivers do the same thing after catching a 3-yard pass at midfield. Hey knucklehead, it’s now second-and-seven. Get back in the huddle and stop wasting all your energy jumping around and pointing to yourself.

Or the scene I witnessed recently on TV: a guy hit a solo home run in the 8th inning, and while the ball sailed over the wall he stood at home plate admiring it, then made his way around the bases ever so slowly, all the while pointing to the crowd. When he finally touched the plate, he pointed both arms heavenward in thanksgiving for his remarkable achievement. To be honest, though, I don’t think God was terribly impressed that a guy playing for a team 14-1/2 games out of first place, hit one out in a mid-July game, which meant his team now was losing by only six runs not seven. I don’t know if he got plunked the next day, but if my father or I were pitching, he would’ve been drilled in the ribs with a tailing fastball.

So why is my dad’s wise advice important? At my age, it’s not like I’ve scored any touchdowns lately. In fact, the last one was 40 years ago this fall, in a jayvee game at a small college. And no, my amazing catch did not make Sports Center’s top ten highlights that evening. (ESPN didn’t exist back then, but even if it did, well, let’s put it this way: there were more players on the field than there were fans in the bleachers that day, and none of them thought to preserve the historic moment by bringing a Super-8 movie camera.) However, in case you were wondering, I did just hand the ball to the ref as if I did that every day, as long as you define “every day” as meaning: one single time during an entire four-year period.

My father’s advice is important because it’s not about sports; it’s about character. The “just hand the ball to the ref” way of thinking emphasizes humility, teamwork, and discipline. These character traits are not exactly in abundance nowadays. This way of thinking is the exact opposite of the “Selfie mentality.”

Oh man, I’m glad my father is too old to know or care about digital technology. If he had any idea what young people are up to on social media these days with the deluge of “look at me!” selfies, he’d be drilling guys in the ribs with tailing fastballs all day long.

Sharing these thoughts right now makes it quite obvious that I am a member of the rapidly shrinking “fuddy-duddy generation.” We are fading into the sunset, and we are routinely mocked by the know-it-all, look-at-me whippersnapper generation. (Oh my, did I just use the phrases “fuddy-duddy” and “whippersnapper” in the same paragraph? Yeow, I am a dinosaur.)

Well, all I know is: humble confidence is better than prideful boasting. And just handing the ball to the ref is cooler than you might think.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The ‘Good News’ Is for the Whole World

The Scripture readings at Mass this weekend focus on a common theme: the salvation of the Lord is not just for a select group of people; it is available to everyone, even foreigners.

In the gospel reading, a Canaanite woman, a foreigner, came to Jesus and begged for help. Her daughter was gravely ill, and she knew that Jesus had the power to heal people. Up until this time, Jesus had focused His efforts on the people of Israel, but this foreign woman had so much trust in the Lord that Jesus actually changed His plans and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”

Throughout most of the history of Israel, the people of the covenant believed that Yahweh was their God alone. Since foreigners were born into the “wrong” nation—that is, not Israel—the belief back then was that they were not part of God’s Chosen People, and therefore, could be ignored.

When Jesus came and fulfilled all the prophecies of Israel, everything changed. It was now possible for any person—regardless of race, creed, or nationality—to be in a covenant relationship with God. A person was no longer thought to be either blessed or cursed based on which nation he happened to be born into. Now any person could be blessed by having a personal faith in Christ.

At the very end of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus gave what is known as the Great Commission: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

This means that as Christians, we have been commanded by the Lord Himself to spread the Gospel message to all the world. There are countless places around the globe that have NEVER heard the Good News of the Gospel. Some places are located in foreign lands 12,000 miles away; others are in cubicles at the office 12 feet away.

For many centuries, Christians took the Great Commission very seriously. Missionaries spread the Gospel message to the far corners of the globe. In our day and age, however, sharing the Good News has become very politically incorrect. Discussing your religious beliefs with others is now defined as “imposing your intolerant values on others,” which violates the most important modern-day world view: moral relativism, the idea that all beliefs and values are equal.

The ancient Israelites did not share their knowledge of God with foreigners because they thought Yahweh did not care for those people from other countries (although He surely did). Nowadays, many Christians do not share their knowledge of Christ with others because it’s considered impolite.

The moral relativists and their doctrine of “all views are equal” have done a fabulous job of shutting up the average Christian. And I just can’t help but think the Lord is shaking His head and muttering, “What’s the matter with you people? Do you believe that I am the ‘way and the truth and the life,’ or not?!”

So let’s start with baby steps. First, let’s practice some low-key approaches to evangelization, such as St. Francis’ teaching: “Always preach the Gospel. If necessary, use words.”

Actions do speak louder than words. Living a moral, decent, unselfish life will make other people curious, especially in our immoral, indecent, self-absorbed culture. It might even create an opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus Christ…with actual words.

Another concept that should help is: “You don’t have to proclaim to everyone that you are a Christian. But if they happen to find out, make sure they’re not surprised.”

So please, do not let whiny politically correct moral relativists silence you. The Good News of the Gospel is indeed for the whole world, as clearly stated by the Scripture readings this week. We have been commanded by Our Savior to help spread the message.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Major Faux Pas in Le Mart du Wal

Embarrassment is incredibly painful. I wonder how expensive it will be to move to Montana and have plastic surgeons give me a whole new identity? After my recent blunder, that’s the only viable option.

It started out so innocently. On a Saturday morning, I went to a local big box store to buy a replacement showerhead. The store was very crowded. The checkout lines were huge. The place was a bustling beehive of frenetic activity. 
And that’s when, out of shear frustration, I did the unthinkable. I still can’t believe I did it, but at that moment, not thinking clearly, I actually —

Hey, wait a minute. You’re anticipating what I’m about to say, aren’t you? You think I’m going to admit that I shoplifted the showerhead because I didn’t want to wait in line, and then got caught red-handed sneaking out of the store, and had to endure the shame of being arrested and see my name in the police blotter section of the newspaper, aren’t you? Ha! I only WISH that’s what happened.

What really occurred is far more embarrassing. Out of frustration, I walked up to a store employee and said, “Excuse me, ma’am. Where can I find the replacement showerheads?”

The startled woman stared at me in disbelief. After a long pause, she slowly backed away. When she caught sight of a fellow employee, she quickly waved her over, and said, “Shirley! What am I supposed to do? A customer asked me for the location of an item.”

“Well, Marge,” the other employee laughed, “Just tell the customer where she can find it, of course.”

“You don’t understand,” Marge said as Shirley came into view. “The customer is, is a MAN!”

Shirley stopped in her tracks. The two employees stood frozen like a pair of blue smock-clad deer, standing in the center of the road staring at oncoming headlights. Finally, Shirley spoke. “They, uh, they never prepared us for this at the training seminars. I’ve never had a, a man ask for help before.”

By now a crowd had gathered, not unlike curious rubberneckers trying to get a glimpse of a terrible car wreck. I noticed that some of the onlookers were men. Their faces were twisted with looks of pure disgust and loathing. I heard one guy mutter, “What a loser. Jerks like him give all men a bad name.”

Another man added, “Yeah, we come here knowing we’ll have to wander the aisles for two or three hours before we find what we want. Who does he think he is, anyway?” He then held his hand in front of his young son’s face and said, “Don’t look, Tommy. You’re too young to be expose to something like this.”

I tried to defend myself. “But I did wander around, for over half-an-hour. I just want a stupid showerhead.”

In reply, jeers and shouts rose up from the crowd. They pressed in closer to me, approaching from all sides. I think I saw some pitchforks and torches.

Just then a tall white-haired security guard waded through the crowd. “OK, break it up!” he shouted. “Nothing to see here! Move along!” As the mob dispersed, the guard said, “What’s the problem?”

Shirley spoke up. “He, he asked Marge for help finding an item.”

The guard’s shoulders slumped. He looked at me and shook his head slowly. “You’d think working Homicide for 30 years would prepare you for anything,” he said sadly. He grabbed my arm and said, “C’mon, I’ll escort you to your car for your own safety.”

As I drove home, I wondered which would annoy my wife more, the fact that I never found a replacement showerhead, or our impending move to Montana.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Jesus Is NOT Angry at You

Years ago, I remember hearing a story about people trying to get into Heaven. In the story, Jesus, the stern judge, was holding court at the entrance of Heaven. Everyone who wanted to get in, first had to stand before Jesus and listen as He loudly proclaimed all their sins. One after another, each person would quiver in fear as Jesus angrily declared him or her unworthy, and then cast them into Hell. The remaining people waiting their turn were terrified. But then a guy tip-toed over to the crowd and whispered, “Psst, follow me. Jesus’ mom is letting people in through the side door.”

I’ve heard other stories (true ones, by the way, not silly tales) from folks who attended parochial schools, especially during the 1940s and 50s. Exasperated nuns, trying to maintain order in a noisy classroom, would yell, “Jesus is so angry at you, he’ll NEVER let you into Heaven!”

So, the main lesson to be learned from both semi-humorous stories and exasperated nuns is that Jesus is really angry at us. The conclusion, therefore, is that unless our behavior is pretty much perfect, we have little chance of getting into Heaven.

Off the top of my head, I can think of three or four people I know who are faithful to the teachings of the Church, but who are genuinely so worried about their chances of getting into Heaven, they are depressed and miserable about it. They truly believe they have committed so many sins over the years, Jesus is really mad at them and most likely will cast them into Hell for all eternity. These people are genuinely frightened of Jesus.

This attitude is the complete OPPOSITE of what the Good News of the Gospel teaches. Yes, Jesus loves righteousness and hates sin. Yes, Jesus is the judge of all the world. Yes, Jesus told us, “Be perfect, as my heavenly Father is perfect.” Yes, Jesus said, “Go, and sin no more.”

However, we can’t take those quotes in isolation and out of context. Those quotes must be understood within the entirety of the New Testament. And here is the main message of Scripture: 1) we ALL are sinners and fall short; 2) but God loves us so much He sent His Son to pay the price for our sins; and 3) if we trust in Him and accept His forgiveness we can enter into Heaven, even if we really don’t deserve it.

That’s why they call it the Good News. It’s not very complicated. It’s all based on love. God loves us, and if we love Him in return, He will wash away our sins.

If you want to look at specific Bible verses, try this one: “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Or this one: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16).
This famous verse from John’s gospel summarizes God’s entire plan of salvation. The Lord created each and every one of us out of love, and He loves each and every one of us with an intensity we cannot comprehend. He would never willfully send anyone to Hell. Regrettably, many people refuse to accept His love and His offer of forgiveness, and choose instead to separate themselves from God for all eternity, and so the end result is the same. But it’s not God doing it.

If you’re one of those folks who was told years ago that Jesus is angry at you, it’s simply not true. That’s a false view of Our Lord, which was invented by, among other people, frazzled nuns and frustrated parents who wanted to keep kids in line. (I’m not saying you didn’t in fact terrorize those poor nuns. I’m just saying Jesus still loves you despite your behavior then—and now.)

If you’re afraid you’re not good enough for Heaven, join the crowd! Everyone in Heaven (except Mary) was not good enough either. But they are there right now because God loves them, and they loved Him back in return.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Vacations Can Be Hard Work

We are now in the heart of the vacation season. During this time of year most people set aside a week or two to take a much needed break from the tedious grind of work. Unless, of course, these people happen to be school teachers, in which case they are entering the fifth week of an eight-week break from work. (Relax, I’m not slamming teachers. Some of my best friends are teachers. I’m just, um, I’m just really jealous, OK?)

Anyway, the problem with vacations is that people have very differing views about the purpose of this much needed break from work. Some people think a vacation is the opportunity to do all the things there is no time to do while working, such as: travel to exciting destinations, visit tourist sites and amusement parks, take a million photographs (and upload ALL of them to Facebook), dine in exotic restaurants, visit long lost relatives and friends, and forego sleep, if need be, in an attempt to cram as much fun as possible into a one- or two-week period.

Other people, however, think a vacation is the opportunity to do all the things there is no time to do while working, such as: sleep late and hang around the house.

For people in the first category, a vacation is considered successful if they visit every possible attraction in a dozen different locations — and take at least 125 selfies at each attraction. For people in the second category, a vacation is considered successful if they are still wearing only slippers and boxer shorts at 3 p.m. every afternoon. And this goes for the men, too.

There is actually a third category. These are people who think the purpose of a vacation is to do major home improvement projects, such as repave the driveway, put new shingles on the roof, or paint the entire house. I’m not including this group of people in my discussion of vacations because, frankly, they are emotionally disturbed. People who look forward to working HARDER while on vacation than they do while at work make me nervous.
Problems arise when people in the first category — the “let’s do EVERYTHING while on vacation” folks — are married to people in the second category — the “it’s time for my third nap of the day” folks.

Let’s just say for discussion’s sake that in a particular family, it is the wife who wants to travel and see all the sites while on vacation, and it is the husband who wants to sleep late and startle the Jehovah Witnesses by answering the door wearing only slippers and boxer shorts. (Not that this represents any particular family of which I am aware — especially mine. No, really.)

If this family decides to make the husband happy by staying home doing nothing during the vacation, the wife will become very frustrated and depressed, and for the next 50 weeks the husband will find that certain things he’s taken for granted, such as food and clean boxer shorts, may no longer be forthcoming.

On the other hand, if the family decides to make the wife happy by frantically traveling across North America and seeing the sites, the husband will become frustrated and depressed (not to mention exhausted), and start to wish he had done something less strenuous during the vacation week, such as repave the driveway, put new shingles on the roof, and paint the entire house. 

There is a solution to this dilemma. The couple can get divorced each July, take separate vacations, and then re-marry each August. If this is not practical, there is another solution. Both spouses can go back to school and get their teaching certificates.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Prayer Notebook and The Rem Dog

Last year I started writing prayer requests into a small notebook. Whenever a friend, family member, or fellow parishioner had a need—usually health related—I would enter his or her name in my notebook and pray for them each morning. Within months, the list of people became quite large. I think that’s because most of the people on the list are in my age range, and I’m at the stage of life where EVERYBODY has health issues.

My little prayer notebook is a wonderful way to help me remember who needs prayer, and just having it prompts me to pray on a daily basis. I recommend a prayer notebook for anyone who wants to pray for others but can never remember who exactly needs prayer.

Recently, I heard that Jerry Remy has cancer again. If you don’t know him, he’s the former all-star second baseman for the Red Sox, who has been broadcasting Boston baseball games on TV for the past 30 years. My first impulse was to write his name in my prayer notebook. But then I said to myself, “No, wait a minute. My notebook is already getting full with just the people I know, plus friends of friends. If I start praying for every celebrity or public figure with a health problem, I’ll have to pray 24 hours a day.”

So, I made a conscious decision NOT to put Jerry Remy’s name in my prayer notebook. Then a couple of weeks later, God decided to show me that He has a terrific sense of humor. I was in Kansas City on a business trip. It just so happened the Red Sox were in town to play the Royals. (OK, it didn’t “just so happen,” since I booked the business trip three months earlier knowing the Red Sox would be there. As it turned out, I was able to attend one of the games. They lost, but it was a great experience.)

Also, it just so happened the Red Sox were staying in the same hotel I was staying in. (This was indeed a “just so happened” situation, since I had no idea where they would be staying.) As I walked through the hotel lobby one day, who was sitting there, having a conversation with two other people? None other than Jerry Remy.

Now, as a big Red Sox fan, who vividly remembers the “Rem Dog” from his playing days in the 1970s, I could’ve left him alone, since he probably gets pestered by fans all the time. Or I could’ve been a jerk and bothered him. I, of course, chose the latter. I walked over to where he was sitting, and as soon as there was a brief lull in his conversation, I blurted out, “Jerry! We’re praying for you! Don’t worry, you’ll beat it again this time!”

He smiled and waved, and then, as I walked away, I said to myself, “‘We’re praying for you’? Did I really say that? Oh man, I specifically decided NOT to pray for him, and then I say THAT? Wow!” At that point, I looked up toward Heaven and said to God, “You are too funny, Lord. I see what you did there. You put Jerry Remy in my path to show me how foolish I was to leave him off my prayer list just because ‘I don’t have time for everybody’.” Well, I get the message, Lord. I’ll put him on my list.”

I went upstairs to my room, wrote Jerry Remy’s name in my prayer notebook, had another good laugh at the way God works, and then offered up a prayer for healing for the “Rem Dog.” 

As I mentioned earlier, a prayer notebook is a great way to organize your prayers. But if you decide to use one, watch out, God might surprise you. And in the process give you a good laugh.